Eurasian watermilfoil is a native plant to Europe, Asia and northern Africa. It is, however, non-native to North America. It is not exactly known when Eurasian watemilfoil came in contact with North American waters. There are various assumptions of how it got here, one of which is that someone brought it over from Europe as an aquarium plant. After it over took their aquarium, it was disposed in the yard and made its way into a watershed, spreading from there. Another theory is that it was brought over in the ballast water of ships, on their way to the great lakes.
Eurasian watermilfoil is an extremely rapid growing plant. It can grow up to 10 inches in a weeks time. The roots of the plant are a distinct silver color that can root in an array of bottom types. It can and will grow in sandy, rocky bottoms but thrives in the more silty bottoms that are nutrient rich. The weed has numerous stocks that grow from its fibrous root system. The stocks will grow up to the surface, sometimes in 20 plus feet of water. The plant has 4 whorls of 4 feathery leaves around the stem. Each leaf is divided into paired leaflets, primarily 12-21 pairs per leaflet. The top of the plant is topped with a bright red crown. Individual stems branch out at the top of the plant when the plant nears the surface. These branched stems are very fragile, occasionally already have a root system of their own, and when broken off will fall to the bottom and produce a new plant.
Many different ideas have been put to use to abolish milfoil in Vermont lakes. One method, is the application of an aquatic weevil named, Euhrychiopsis Lecontei, that eats milfoil. Another treatment is the use of harvesters. The harvesters cut 4 feet or so beneath the surface. There are chemical treatments that are also available but are, not surprisingly, not very welcomed by lake shore owners. The Lake Dunmore/Fern Lake Association has applied the method of hand picking. Thus far it has been proven very successful without chemical intervention.
Vermont law makes it illegal to transport Eurasian watermilfoil, along with zebra mussels and water chestnuts, on boats and boating equipment. Any person found transporting any of these species to or from a Vermont lake or pond will be in violation of this law. Penalties for violations could include fines, imprisonment, or both (pursuant to 10 V.S.A. §1266).
It is quite simple to do your part in preventing further infestation. Before launching a boat, make sure that all plant fragments have been removed from your boat, trailer, trailer bed, anchor, anchor line, live-well, ballast water, propelar, waterskis, fishing equipment, etc. It is also recommended to hose your boat down and flush your engine with tap water. Let your boat sit in the sun for a few days to kill fragments and other non-native species which you may have contracted. With everyone doing their part, together we may be able to slow infestations until a permanent solution is found.
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